A TYPICALLY UNDERSTATED END-OF-SEASON AFFAIR
A couple of weeks ago, the upcoming Manchester United versus West Ham fixture looked like a biggie, with serious consequences a-go-go. But times change real fast these days, and there’s less than nothing riding on it now. West Ham are realistically if not mathematically safe, in that they’re realistically mathematically safe, while Manchester United without question will be playing Big Cup football next season, on account of Brendan Rodgers being currently 359 degrees through one of those end-of-season flat spins he launches into whenever he’s not working in a one-horse town. They’re done deals.
This implication-free state of affairs has afforded both managers the opportunity to kick back and consider the wider picture before Wednesday’s game. In David Moyes’s case, this has manifested itself in a root-and-branch reappraisal of his time at his former club, a period during which he took the reigning champions from first to seventh, tried to sign Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini for £28m, signed Marouane Fellaini for £28m, and redefined the word glaikit. Throwing his feet up on the desk at Tuesday morning’s press conference, he observed that “Ole had a difficult start but the difference between Ole and me is that he’s being given time”. That argument sounded reasonable enough to The Fiver, until we considered that Ole Gunnar Solskjær won his first eight matches in charge, and 14 of his first 17. If nothing else, it proved Moyes’s critical and cognitive skills are still as sharp and finely tuned as they were back in those heady days of 2013.
Meanwhile his opposite number, the aforementioned Ole, was at pains during his pre-match chat to stress that “this is not going to become a David de Gea press conference”. That statement was slightly undermined when one member of the Manchester United PR team clumsily dropped a glass of water, another accidentally set fire to a glass of water, the theme tune to Spike Milligan’s Q started parping out of the Old Trafford speakers, and Solskjær began talking about David de Gea. “David is strong enough to know his job is to perform in training the next day and be ready for the games,” insisted the United boss, wisely stopping short of making any rash promises about what he might get up to when those games actually start. “We are not going to talk about individuals. No one here wants to feel we are putting more pressure on them.” All eyes on the hapless De Gea, then, because if he throws another three in, United may be looking for another keeper this summer. Sheffield United, to be specific.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I wouldn’t have left Liverpool unless it was for something special. I’m excited by what we have got in front of us here” – Blackpool boss Neil Critchley gets his chat on with Ben Fisher.
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“Re: Marc Meldrum’s nightmares from Gary Bollan (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Just be thankful he wasn’t told to ‘take his face for a sh1te’” – Dave Watson.
“To join the theme of being embarrassed by proper players (Fiver letters passim), I played in a bizarrely mismatched friendly in the mid-80s for the International School of Geneva (staff) against Brazil. No, my dad didn’t believe it, either. Nonetheless, their touring outfit, who’d accepted our bribe of a game in exchange for a pitch to train on, included wily veterans (Paolo Cesar, Rivelinho, Leão, etc) and a number of young pretenders including the lightning-fast winger, Müller, who scored seven. The lasting memory is that they seemed to have at least 25 men on the pitch. After the match – a closely-fought 12-1 in the Brazilians’ favour, our one was an own goal – everyone on our side was in awe of the little midfielder who pretty much ran the show. Turned out he was the coach driver” – Steve Bennett.
“Re: Mike Fillery (yesterday’s Fiver) and his role on the periphery of history. It was always thus. This very weekend, seeking to watch a televised game Sheffield United actually won between 1976 and 1982, I also caught Chelsea v Newcastle from back in 1980, and Fillery’s industrial yet effective free-kick is completely overshadowed by the first appearance on TV of a young man destined for higher things, albeit right from the get-go also destined to be followed around by the words ‘Sausage Factory’. I often wonder whether, if he had worked in a ball bearing factory, or perhaps Halfords, we’d be quite so preoccupied with Chris Waddle’s original place of work. If you can’t be bothered the whole game (and it’s not actually a bad watch) he has what could be kindly called ‘a quiet game’ before being subbed off in the second half. Haircut a lot better than anything he’s had since, mind” – Jon Millard.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Having realised that his defence is pretty appalling, Pep Guardiola has decided to splash out £35m of Nathan Aké, who plays for a team who have conceded 64 goals so far this season …
West Ham will turn down any attempt by Chelsea to offer Michy Batshuayi and Ross Barkley as part of a deal for Declan Rice, what with being able to play harder ball now they’re likely to stay up.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are closing in on the signing of Kai Havertz after agreeing terms with the German. However, they are yet to actually arrange a fee with his club Bayer Leverkusen, which seems important.
Coventry City have stuck in their Ucas form after announcing plans to build a new stadium on the campus of Warwick University.
Some better news for Mr Roy after seven defeats on the spin: Nathan Ferguson has joined Crystal Palace after his West Brom deal ran down.
And LA’s newest team – provisionally nicknamed Angel City – will have an eclectic group of owners in NWSL, including Natalie Portman and the two-year-old daughter of Serena Williams. “Each of us has our special ability to bring to the team,” cheered Portman. The Fiver didn’t bring much to the table aged two and still doesn’t, to be fair.
STILL WANT MORE?
Chris Marshall on the joy of going to football with your grandpa (and his friends).
Sid Lowe is on form for this piece on Leganés and the desperate final day that lead to their relegation from La Liga.
Jacob Steinberg explains how Chelsea’s summer transfer plans might affect a few old faces.
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